Rosemary’s Baby Beat Sheet
After the failure of one of his Broadway plays, Ira Levin decided to write a second novel (after A Kiss Before Dying). Levin realized that the most effective horror stories are those that employ the anticipation of horror rather than showing it. He chose Satan’s child as the spawn growing inside Rosemary Woodhouse for the novel as aliens had already been used in the Wyndham book, The Midwich Cuckoos.
When the unpublished book was still in galleys, William Castle, known for his gimmicky horror films like The House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, and The Tingler, optioned the rights to the manuscript. He took them to Robert Evans at Paramount. Evans enticed little known European director Roman Polanski to write and direct the film version. The book was released on March 12, 1967, and became an instant bestseller. The film was released on June 12, 1968 and was a smash hit. Ruth Gordon, playing Minnie Castevet in the film, won a much-deserved Oscar® for her role. As somebody who grew up during that time, everybody was talking about the controversial and “freaky” Rosemary’s Baby—it thrilled and terrified audiences.
Rosemary’s Baby inspired such devilish blockbuster franchises as The Exorcist and The Omen, as well as current horror hits like Get Out and Hereditary. A made-for-TV sequel, Look What Happened to Rosemary’s Baby, premiered in 1976, but was panned. In 2016, a remake of Rosemary’s Baby appeared on television again in the form of a mini-series, this time starring Zoe Saldana. It was met with middling reviews and little enthusiasm.
The original Rosemary’s Baby, now 50 years old, still holds up—and it’s also one of the best book-to-movie adaptations in the history of film. In the script, many of the same descriptions and exchanges of dialogue mirror the book verbatim. The final draft of the screenplay, dated June 1967, clocks in at 166 pages. The first cut of the film was reportedly over four hours. Many scenes were trimmed, obviously, down to its final 137-minute running time.
Novel by: Ira Levin
Written & Directed by: Roman Polanski
MITH Type: Supra-Natural Monster
MITH Cousins: Hereditary, Get Out, The Exorcist, The Omen, The Witch, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, House of the Devil, Race with the Devil, Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby, Devil, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Devil’s Due, Angel Heart, Prince of Darkness, The Devil’s Rain, The Devil Rides Out, To The Devil a Daughter, The Mephisto Waltz, Blood on Satan’s Claw, Burnt Offerings, The Sentinel
Opening Image: A panning shot over the summery Manhattan landscape to the unsettling lullaby strains of Krzysztof Komeda’s haunting score where we find the Gothic Revival apartment building The Bramford (The Dakota, in actuality) on the verdant west side of Central Park.
Set-Up: Mr. Nicklas (Elisha Cook Jr.) shows Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary (Mia Farrow) Woodhouse the recently vacated apartment in the creepy building. Guy is a struggling actor who’s done some stage work and television commercials. Rosemary tells their guide they’re planning a family. Nicklas shows them Apartment 7E—the elderly woman who lived there died (in the hospital). One thing they notice that’s strange (and we’ll learn why later) is that a highboy dresser was moved and blocks a cleaning closet. Guy and Nicklas move the heavy chest to uncover the mystery. Rosemary wants the apartment, already making plans where the nursery will go while Guy is unsure.
B Story: Guy and Rosemary have dinner with Edward “Hutch” Hutchins (Maurice Evans). Hutch, an astute children’s book author, has been Rosemary’s friend and paternal figure since she moved to New York from Omaha, Nebraska. He will prove to be her only ally.
Theme Stated: Hutch warns Rosemary and Guy against taking an apartment at The Bramford. The Trench Sisters, Victorian women who were cannibals of children, resided there, along with Adrian Marcato, who was accused of witchcraft and killed in the lobby in the 1890s. He says a dark history follows the “Black Bramford” and they should stay away. This is vital survival information that Rosemary takes lightly but will learn through the course of the story. Rosemary’s transgression that brings the monster in the house is ignoring her mentor’s advice to stay away. Her desire to live in the prestigious Bramford to start a family with her actor husband overrules Hutch’s warning.
Catalyst: Of course, in any horror film, the protagonist ignores the warnings of doom. Rosemary and Guy move into the “Black Bramford.” They quickly make the place their own—removing all the old-world furniture of the previous tenant and having the gloomy walls painted optic white to bring in the light. This is a thesis moment for Rosemary. The brightest her life will ever be.
Debate: Down in the shadowy laundry facility, Rosemary meets Terry Gionoffrio (Angela Dorian), who lives with Ro’s neighbors, the Castevets. Terry tells Rosemary that the elderly couple took her in off the streets and got her clean from drugs. She shows Rosemary a silver neck chain with a silver filigreed ball at the end. Terry says it has something inside for good luck. Rosemary smells it and flinches—not a good scent (we’ll learn later it’s “tannis root” and it’s anything but beneficial).
That night, Guy and Rosemary, in their bedroom, comment how they can easily hear their neighbors through the wall (this will pay off in the Finale). As they’re about to make love, they hear the strange sounds of chanting and a flute. What are their weird neighbors up to behind that thin wall that separates apartments?
Later, Terry is dead. She apparently jumped out the window of The Bramford. It’s here Rosemary and Guy meet the Castevets, Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon). Rosemary says some kind words about Terry to her elderly neighbors, who grieve over the bloody corpse on the sidewalk. Another dark passage in the “Black Bramford’s” book?
That night Rosemary, lying in bed, hears Minnie’s heated words through the wall. Falling into a slumber, Rosemary incorporates her neighbors’ strange discussion into dream images. She hears Minnie say things like “you shouldn’t have told her [Terry]” and other conspiratorial phrases; Minnie’s upset at Terry’s unexpected death. (Rosemary trying to separate dreams from reality will pay off in a devilish way at the Midpoint.)
The next morning, Minnie Castevet shows up. Insistent and tawdry, Minnie is like a wrecking ball rolling through Rosemary’s apartment, making all kinds of comments on the decor and asking how much things cost. She invites Ro and Guy to dinner and will take no refusal.
Guy laments that Donald Baumgart got the part in the play over him. Rosemary mentions that Minnie was over and invited them to dinner. Guy refuses, saying that if you mingle with neighbors like that you’ll never be rid of them. Rosemary agrees but Guy soon gives in.
Break into Two: Rosemary and Guy have dinner with their elderly neighbors. The Castevets are charming (maybe a little bit too) and kitschy. Guy is immediately taken with Roman and his worldly knowledge. The elderly neighbors ask the Woodhouses some seemingly innocuous questions (which we learn later was more of an interview for a dangerous occupation that Terry’s unplanned demise left vacant).
Fun and Games: Back at their apartment, Rosemary notices that the Castevets took down several pictures. What were they hiding? Guy, however, was enchanted with Roman and plans to see him again.
The next day, Minnie shows up unannounced with her equally gaudy friend, Laura-Louise (Patsy Kelly), bringing their sewing along. Minnie offers Rosemary the gift of Terry’s silver filigree-ball necklace. She tells Rosemary that the foul-smelling tannis root inside is for good luck.
Rosemary reluctantly accepts the filigree-ball necklace that belonged to Terry for “good luck” (which didn’t help the former owner much).
Guy receives a call from the producer of the play. Donald Baumgart, who beat him out for the role, has suddenly gone blind. The producer offers the part to Guy, who accepts it without hesitation. It seems things are now suddenly looking up in his career after moving into The Bramford and meeting the Castevets.
Rosemary meets with Hutch, tying A and B stories. Now that Guy has the part, he’s self-absorbed with it. Rosemary feels lonely. The only friend she seems to have in the world is her former landlord. Hutch mentions Terry’s suicide and that the “happy house” (The Bramford) has claimed another victim to add to its tragic history. He jokes that the Castevets didn’t do a very good job of rehabilitating a formerly homeless street girl.
Returning home to 7E, Rosemary finds the place decorated with vibrant red roses. As if Guy knew what his wife was meeting Hutch about, he apologizes for being a “creep” and for being so wrapped up in his career. He quickly offers the olive branch of having a baby. He even slaps the date on the calendar of when to start the insemination process, appropriately in October.
On “baby night,” Rosemary and Guy have a firelight dinner for two. The ringer buzzes in the middle of the romantic moment—it’s Minnie Castevet, whose caustic voice throws a wet blanket over the mood. Guy returns without the nosy neighbor but instead with two “chocolate mouses.” As Rosemary eats the mousse, however, she notices a “chalky under taste.” She doesn’t like it but Guy insists that she eat it. When Guy isn’t looking, she dumps the rest of the “mouse” in a cloth napkin. Later, Rosemary starts getting woozy. It seems that there was something in the chocolate mousse that didn’t agree with her—a sedative perhaps? She collapses and Guy carries her to the bed. He starts undressing her.
Rosemary, in her drug-induced state, starts to merge her waking state with her subconscious state—her world and her dreams merge (this motif was set up earlier). She even dreams of Hutch, who can’t make the boat that all the other guests, led by Captain Roman Castevet himself, are on.
Rosemary then finds herself in the Castevets’ apartment. A bed awaits her. Naked, she’s surrounded by other naked people, a coven of them, as they chant—including the Castevets and Guy!
Soon, Rosemary experiences Guy mounting her—it seems he’s ready for “baby night” after all. However, Rosemary soon realizes that it isn’t Guy—it’s a creature that appears to be demonic—or even Satan himself. Rosemary, who didn’t eat all the drugged dessert, becomes aware that “this is no dream—this is really happening!” It’s an antithesis moment for Rosemary, her world is upside-down and the opposite of the thesis in Act One.
The next morning, Rosemary awakens with scratches all over her body. Guy says that he couldn’t wait for baby night and took advantage of her, “it was fun in a necrophile kind of way.” He claims that he had a couple of hangnails that left the marks. Rosemary says that she dreamt that something inhuman was raping her. Guy is distant toward her, a little freaked out considering he knows what diabolical activity actually took place.
Midpoint: Rosemary goes to see Dr. Hill (Charles Grodin) for some blood tests. She gets the news that she’s pregnant. The birth is scheduled for June 28th. Guy says he’ll be better about being more attentive to her needs. This is a false victory for Rosemary. It also starts the ticking clock. And little does she know—the stakes are now raising.
Bad Guys Close In: The Castevets, of course, are overjoyed that their diabolic deception worked, a going public moment too. They suggest Dr. Abe Sapirstein, their physician, instead of Dr. Hill (no outsiders). On the phone, Minnie assures Sapirstein that Rosemary knows nothing about their nefarious plot. That night, Rosemary puts on the filigree necklace for “good luck.”
Ro meets Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy). He tells her to take no pills but drink whatever herbal cocktail Minnie Castevet gives her. Of course, it’s one that contains the stinky “tannis root.”
In true Bad Guys Close In fashion, Rosemary starts having pains. She’s also looking awful, frail and thin, growing pale. She’s in agony, hiding it from Guy. She eats rare meat and even a raw liver. The demon spawn within her, it seems, needs to feed.
Hutch shows up, tying A and B stories. He’s the only one on her side—the voice of reason and caution. He tells her how terrible she looks and that she can’t possibly be pregnant as she’s losing weight not gaining it. Hutch does recommend Sapirstein too, not knowing the extent of the plot against Rosemary. As if on cue, Roman Castevet shows up at the door. He meets Hutch, regarding the outsider with suspicion.
This is a compelling moment as this is a story about family. Hutch represents a paternal figure for Rosemary, the Good Father, while Roman represents the Bad Father. It’s here that the change of power begins. This is the last time we’ll see Hutch. The forces of darkness will be certain that he will never interfere again. Guy shows up and Hutch decides to leave. As he does, Hutch is missing one of his gloves. Missing or was it stolen for some sinister purpose?
Later, Hutch calls Rosemary and wants to meet her outside the Time-Life Building for an early lunch. Playing the Good Father role, he’s rather urgent and won’t say what the meeting is about. When she asks if he found his glove, he says that he didn’t. Guy is a little more vigilant than usual and asks what Hutch wanted—Ro tells him when and where they’re meeting. Suddenly, Guy makes an excuse to get ice cream and quickly leaves (actually to tell the Castevets as we hear their doorbell soon ring).
The next day, Rosemary waits for Hutch but he never shows. She’s feeling worse than ever.
When Ro calls Hutch, a friend answers and she tells Rosemary that her friend was taken ill suddenly and is in a coma in the hospital. Is Hutch the victim of more black magic like what also happened to Donald Baumgart? Minnie Castevet happens to show up. What a lucky coincidence, right? She ushers the ill-feeling Rosemary home.
At a New Year’s Eve party at the Castevets, with all the players in attendance, Rosemary tells Dr. Sapirstein how lousy she feels. He tells her that it will all subside. Roman Castevet toasts to 1966 and adds “The Year One!” What does that mean? The Year One of what? Hmmm. Rosemary’s baby is scheduled for a June 1966 birth (06/66). The Number of the Beast is 666. Coincidence?
Rosemary plans a party for her friends. She doesn’t invite the Castevets or Dr. Sapirstein. She pours out Minnie’s herbal tannis drink too. She’s starting to take charge. All her friends are shocked how terrible Rosemary looks, “like a piece of chalk” one comments. They’re right. Her girlfriends tell her something’s wrong, that she needs the help of another doctor.
After the party, Rosemary tells Guy that she’s going to another doctor—they fight. Guy defends Sapirstein. He’s in league and doesn’t want any outsiders either. Rosemary won’t listen, she’s going to Dr. Hill—and just like that, she’s no longer in pain. It seems the forces of evil need Rosemary to be content.
Things are going well now. The June arrival time is coming close. Rosemary is drinking Minnie’s drink, getting the nursery ready, and packing her bag for the hospital (even though the birthdate is three weeks out).
All Is Lost: Then Rosemary gets a phone call. Hutch died. This is the whiff of death. She takes a taxi to the cemetery. Hutch’s friend, Grace Cardiff (Hanna Hertelendy), gives Rosemary a book, the one Hutch had intended to give her at their meeting back in November. Grace also says “the name is an anagram” but Ro doesn’t know what that means. The name of the book or something else? Hutch was delirious, Grace says, so she couldn’t be sure.
Rosemary opens the package. The book Hutch gave her is called All of Them Witches. She takes the letters from the Scrabble game and starts to arrange them to figure out the anagram, beginning with the title of the book. She comes up with nothing. Then she tries Steven Marcato, son of Adrian Marcato from the book. It’s a fit—Steven Marcato equals Roman Castevet. Now there’s no doubt! Hutch has given her his warning from beyond the grave, tying A and B stories together for the last time.
Dark Night of the Soul: Guy comes home and Rosemary tells him everything. Her husband laughs it off saying that Roman was probably embarrassed for having a witch for a father and changed his name around. Rosemary says that the Castevets are running a coven of witches that have regular sabbaths (that’s what all the chanting and flute playing is about). She’s also worried as baby’s flesh and blood is a powerful element in their rituals. She wants to cut off all contact with the Castevets, sublet the apartment, and move out at once. Guy stands firm and tells her they’ll do nothing of the sort—and takes the book that Hutch had gifted her.
Rosemary confides to Dr. Sapirstein. The doctor believes her and says that Roman would be embarrassed if she knew the truth. He also says that Roman is dying in the next month or two and being a world traveler most of his life, wants to visit a few of his favorite cities for the last time. The doctor assures Rosemary that her elderly neighbors will leave soon and not bother her—another convenient coincidence, it seems.
After the Castevets take a taxi to the airport, Rosemary searches for the All of Them Witches book. Guy tells her he threw it away so she wouldn’t upset herself any further. Angry that her husband threw away the thing that Hutch willed her, she heads to the bookstore, dropping the tannis-filled necklace down the storm drain along the way.
Rosemary now possesses more books on witchcraft and obsessively pours over them in the back of a taxi. Knowledge is her sword and she has seized it and is wielding it to defend her new baby from the coven of black-magic witches that infest The Bramford. It’s in the books that witches often steal something personal from a victim to cast a spell (Hutch’s glove). She calls Donald Baumgart and learns that Guy and the actor switched ties during a meeting. If Donald Baumgart suddenly went blind and Guy got the part—that means a spell was cast on the actor and her husband helped. He’s in on it! Conspiracy theory, in Rosemary’s mind, has become conspiracy reality.
Break into Three: Armed with her new knowledge, Rosemary leaves The Bramford—for good—with her suitcase that she had previously packed for the hospital. She goes to see Dr. Sapirstein. He can help. While waiting in the lobby, Rosemary picks up a Time magazine that asks “Is God Dead?” The secretary comments that Rosemary’s new perfume smells much better than the stinky necklace. She also says that she hopes Dr. Sapirstein changes his aftershave as it smells the same. The lightbulb above Rosemary goes off—Sapirstein is one of the coven too! She quickly beats a hasty retreat from the doctor’s office.
This is Rosemary’s learning moment that is her Act Three synthesis (the culmination of thesis in Act One and antithesis in Act Two)—she ignored Hutch’s mentor warnings about The Bramford in the beginning and now she must face the consequence. Ro has come full circle from her time early in the story with Hutch. All of them witches at the “Black Bramford”—it’s true.
Five Point Finale:
1. Gathering of the Team – In a phone booth, Ro calls Dr. Hill. She tells the reluctant physician of nefarious plots and people who out to get her and her baby. If we didn’t know she was telling the truth, we would swear Rosemary was going insane. As she finishes up her call, a man has his back to the phonebooth—a man who looks like Abe Sapirstein, as if the mad doctor has found her. (However, it turns out to be the cigar-chomping William Castle, the producer of the film in a Hitchcockian cameo.)
2. Executing the Plan – In Dr. Hill’s office, she tells the exhausted doctor of the diabolic plot against her. It seems that Guy had lied to the doctor and told him they had moved to California to pursue his acting career in the movies. Rosemary tells Hill about her neighbor’s rituals and how they had planned this all along—she has figured this out on her own. We’ve seen a complete transformation from the mousy Rosemary at the beginning of the film until now—she’s in warrior mode protecting herself and her baby from the forces of evil. She tells Hill about the spells cast on Donald Baumgart and Hutch, tying A and B stories together. Surprisingly, the good doctor believes her. He arranges to take her to Mount Sinai, then takes her to a room to rest while he makes some calls. Rosemary has a nap.
3. High Tower Surprise – Ro has a rude awakening when Guy and Dr. Sapirstein are looming in the doorway. Sapirstein tells her to come with them quietly—and if she mentions anything more about witches or witchcraft, they’ll be forced to commit her to a mental hospital. Dr. Hill, it seems, was just placating her until he could calm Rosemary down and call her new doctor.
4. Dig, Deep Down – Guy and Sapirstein take Rosemary back to The Bramford. However, she’s much more resourceful than they give her credit for—they haven’t seen the change in her. Ro creates a distraction by dumping the contents of her purse at the elevator. Then she takes the elevator up, leaving her witchcraft-practicing captors behind. In the nick of time, she escapes inside her 7E apartment, locking Guy and Sapirstein out.
They somehow gain entrance. Sapirstein enters, giving Rosemary a shot of sedative. The doctor informs the invading coven that she’s going to have the baby. When Rosemary awakens, she’s at first told by Guy that the baby—a boy—was born and is fine. However, Abe Sapirstein offers her conflicting information: there were complications and the baby died (if she had not made it so difficult for them to begin with). Ro doesn’t believe them. She’s kept under lock and key in bed, given sedatives with Laura-Louise as her jailer.
Executing the New Plan – Due to the thin walls, Rosemary hears a baby crying (those thin walls). She’s forced to give milk (with no explanation given). Rosemary fakes taking her oral sedatives and stashes them. When it’s all quiet, Ro slips on a robe, grabs the biggest butcher’s knife she can find, and heads through the secret passage she discovers in the closet into the Castevets’ apartment. (We now learn why the previous tenant had blocked the closet with the dresser.)
Inside the neighboring Castevets’ apartment, Rosemary finds her son, named Adrian after Roman’s father, Adrian Marcato, in a black-draped bassinet with an inverted crucifix. Rosemary is horrified to find that the eyes don’t match Guy’s but those of Satan.
Arian is the devil’s child. The zealots in the room speak of how “he shall redeem the despised and wreak vengeance in the name of the burned and the tortured.” Guy tries to comfort Rosemary but she spits in his face.
Final Image: Adrian begins crying from his black bassinet. Roman asks Rosemary to be a mother to her baby as Minnie and Laura-Louise are too old. Laura-Louise rocks the baby too fast, causing him to cry more. Rosemary’s natural maternal instincts take over and she goes to the crib. Adrian has a devilish face that only a mother could love—and Rosemary chooses love. She looks on her demonic offspring with new, loving eyes. (In the novel, Rosemary decides to raise “Andy” with as much kindness and love as she can to spite the Antichrist. In the film however, we don’t know her thoughts on the matter at hand.)
We pull back from The Bramford, just like the Opening Image, and out. A complete transformation has occurred. And now, evil personified has been born, and with Rosemary’s nurturing, will grow big and strong.
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